Wondering whether you are eligible for student loan forgiveness? The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program could help you say goodbye to your debt.
While there are two other loan forgiveness options, Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) and Perkins loan cancellation, PSLF is the option that applies to the majority of teachers in the United States.
However, a recent report released by the Department of Education showed that 99% of applicants to the PSLF program have been turned down. Why? Because of incomplete forms and not meeting program requirements.
Don’t let this be you! Here’s everything you need to know about how to qualify for loan forgiveness from the PSLF program.
What is Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Public Service Loan Forgiveness allows public service employees to consolidate their debt (which generally means drastically lower payments) AND wipes your debt clean after 10 years. Once you make 120 qualifying monthly payments, according to the terms of the program, your debt will be completely forgiven.
Am I eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
In order to qualify for PSLF, you need to:
- Work for a qualifying “public service” employer, such as a school
- Work at least 32 hours per week
- Have significant federal (not private) student loans (generally $25K+) through the Direct loans program
Am I still eligible for PSLF if I teach at a private school?
In most cases, yes. Employees of nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, which include most private schools, are eligible for PSLF.
I’ve been told that since I have loans from before 1996, I’m not eligible. Is that true?
While there are date requirements for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, there are not for PSLF. The only requirement for PSLF is that your loans must be through the federal Direct loans program.
What if I have private debt or federal loans that are not through the Direct loans program?
It is possible that you may be able to consolidate into a Direct loan. You will then be eligible for PSLF.
I’m a paraprofessional. Do I qualify for PSLF?
As long as you meet the other qualifications, yes. Your specific job role does not matter for PSLF eligibility. Support staff and principals are eligible, too!
I took some time off from teaching. Am I still eligible for PSLF?
Yes, once you enroll in the program your years enrolled do not necessarily have to be consecutive.
This sounds too good to be true! Could PSLF disappear?
The program is administered by Congress, so it is certainly possible that it could go away. In fact, President Trump’s first 2018 budget proposal suggested eliminating PSLF. However, the expectation is that those currently enrolled in the program will still have their debt forgiven. So if you’ve been putting off enrolling in PSLF, the time is now!
When you receive loan forgiveness through PSLF, does it count as taxable income?
No, money you receive as forgiveness through the PSLF program is not taxable.
How do I sign up for PSLF?
You can contact your student loan servicer or do it yourself using government forms.
A word of warning, however: Some student loan service providers, including Navient and Great Lakes, are currently being sued for misleading their customers about PSLF. The customers in question wound up having to start over with their 10 years of repayments. So you definitely want to make sure that everything is set up correctly when you enroll.
Should I hire someone to help me enroll in PSLF?
Similar to doing your taxes, the choice is up to you. While there are student loan scams out there, there are also reputable companies that help their customers to navigate the red tape of programs like PSLF. One company that we like, which has strong BBB and Google reviews, is Student Debt USA, LLC, based in Boston. The team there knows the PSLF program inside and out—it’s all they do.
Do previous loan payments that I’ve made count toward PSLF?
In most cases, no. All 120 payments must be made while you are enrolled in the PSLF program. So before you make another payment, consider taking the steps to get enrolled today. Good luck!
This post is sponsored by Student Debt USA. If you would like help navigating loan forgiveness, click here to learn more or give them a call at 1-800-461-9203.
Plus, check out our live Q&A answering your questions about PSLF here:
Welcome! We're taking questions about student loan forgiveness for teachers. Joining us is Jody Soares, a special education teacher from Massachusetts who is enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, along with Andrew DiRamio, a student loan expert from Student Debt USA. Post your questions below and we'll get to as many as possible during tonight's event!
Posted by WeAreTeachers on Tuesday, June 5, 2018